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How Amazon Music Makes Country Sounds More Dynamic Like Nashville

October marks Country Music Month for Amazon Music, and as the streaming service celebrates all things country with all new songs, live streaming events and more, it also shows how it intends to embrace the future of country music.

Already having an impact on how country fans get their music, Amazon Music can also be a major force in helping to diversify the format as it leads fans to a whole new wave of artists and music. that they might enjoy – but that they haven’t been exposed to before. .

In short, they show that on Amazon Music, new stars are forming all the time… and since it is Amazon, they have the data to back it up.

Announced at the start of Country Music Month, the DSP claims their Country Heat brand (which includes their playlist, station, and DJ mode station) now has crossed 13 billion has been playing since its inception in 2016, and from 2017 to 2020, the Country Heat station’s streams nearly quadrupled. But a tantalizing part of those numbers is: Not all big names are driving growth.

“When we released this 13 billion issue, it wasn’t just about stream of superstar actors,” said Emily Cohen, Amazon Music’s global head of country music programming and senior curator of the country music. “It also reflected emerging artists. “

According to internal data, some of Amazon Music’s most popular artists are actually names that are either still considered “rising stars” or are still largely under the radar. In fact, Gabby Barrett and Niko Moon have the two most played songs on Amazon Music’s country charts in 2021, with “The good ones” and “Good time” take on superstars like Blake Shelton, Kane Brown, and Luke Combs – and even outshine them.

Partly that’s because of Amazon Music’s approach to playlist streaming, which in the long run seems like a good thing for fans. Not only does this inject more variety into the higher echelons of the format, but the fans themselves seem to like it very much.

“My job is to say ‘How can we offer our customers music that we know they already have an appetite for, but also serve them artists that I think they will also really like – like Niko Moon or Gabby Barrett, or Kolby Cooper. ”Cohen explains, speaking with Looks like Nashville just before a big Reba McEntire livestream. “I feel really lucky because all of my coworkers and I really want songs to be hits… And I think artist development is really important just in terms of standing up for good music. …

“All the work we did with Niko Moon and Gabby Barrett, Kidd G, everything is part of it, ”she continues. “And I think it’s incredibly important.”

Emily Cohen, Global Head of Country Music Programming – Amazon Music (Photo credit: Jason Myers)

Ever since Amazon.com started selling physical CDs, Cohen says, the company has had a unique connection to the country. But now with Amazon Unlimited Music, this connection is stronger than ever. Country is one of the biggest streaming formats on Amazon Music overall, which other DSPs don’t. And while that’s not entirely surprising, given that Garth Brooks chose to make it the only on-demand home for his studio albums in 2016, it does mean the country is receiving special attention.

In fact, Cohen has the enviable job of listening to new music and deciding if that’s something country fans would want to hear. She and her team program all of the country playlists and channels in the US, which includes Country Heat, but also the rest of what they call a “ladder,” bringing new artists and songs to this playlist. leading.

For example, a song like Gabby Barrett’s “I hope” could start on the Breakthrough Country playlist, then move on to Fresh Country, and finally move on to Country Heat. It’s Cohen’s job to make sure the playlists reflect where the fans are at.

“I think it always starts with the music, but you have to take the ego out of it,” she says, choosing songs to highlight. “And then, if you see something that works consistently, it’s interesting. I love Gabby Barrett, I think she’s incredibly talented and when ‘I Hope’ came out I thought it was a new take on a breakup song. It started to take shape on our service even before it was signed. [to a record label], sort of get out [American] Idol as an independent. To me it’s really interesting, it was like ‘Whoa, there’s something going on here – and as a bonus, I love it and I want to stand up for it!’ “

Barrett has become one of the fastest rising stars over the past couple of years, so this early bet seems like a good fit. But it’s not just about picking the winners (or the new ones 3d and Ultra HD audio) that sets Amazon Music apart. It is also the path they focus on the acts to come.

Amazon Music offers programs dedicated to developing artists such as “Breakthrough” and “Launchpad” that provide additional support and visibility for new faces, helping to give artists like Barrett and Moon a boost in their performance. exposure. This exposure comes naturally to established stars nationwide, but it can make a huge difference to newer ones – and this was especially important because COVID-19 has kept them away from fans.

“Over the last year and a half, it’s been great to see us pivot and see how we can still bring artists to their fans and our clients,” Cohen said.

They did it with live streaming superstar events like the aforementioned concert and Q&A with Reba McEntire, but also for emerging stars like Ingrid Andress – who was the subject of a documentary about her first Grammy nomination – and above all, with the Amazon originals series.

The series is a presentation of exclusive songs fans won’t hear elsewhere, featuring the biggest stars and new artists, and for Country Music Month, they’ve upped their game. With a weekly rollout of new content, recent releases include Walker Hayes and Carin Leon’s Spanish remix of “Fancy Like”, The acoustic interpretation of “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” by Ashley McBryde and Carly Pearce and an upcoming unreleased track from Ryan Hurd.

But the latest installment is a perfect example of Amazon Music’s commitment to giving fans new things to love. Released today (October 15) is the new “Storm’s Coming” by riser Kolby Cooper.

“It’s a really creative and collaborative company,” Cohen said of the Amazon Originals series. “It’s like ‘What do you want to do? What not can you do on your record what you want to do now? … With Kolby it’s a completely original song, which is really exciting to have.

Rolling like a romantic storm, the track is all the passion and beating heart of an artist already making waves in texas, which may be on the verge of a bigger breakout. With a static-charged country sound and a voice that cuts tension like a knife, it’s about holding on to dear love as a fight tears the plains of an otherwise solid relationship, and Cohen thinks that it is a success.

“I love him. I’m so in awe of him, because he’s so young,” she said. “It’s an anthem, and for lack of a better word, very sexy. the Texan scene and built a really rabid fan base there, and we’ve kind of seen his name for a while… a fantastic songwriter. It’s like ‘Okay, I think there is. something here. Let’s follow this path. ‘”

“This song is a song I’ve been really excited for since we wrote it,” Cooper said. “It was one of those songs that came together quickly. Then when we got into the studio we decided to experiment with different sounds like dobro, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it and hope they like it as much as I do.

Chris Graham, senior director of artist relations for Amazon Music, agrees.

“When working with artists on Amazon Original songs, we love to collaborate and find the perfect fit in creative ways, whether it’s a song reimagined in their catalog, a cover or a brand new track. He said. “This new song by Kolby is amazing, his vocals are on another level and we know his fans are going to love it.”

This is just small proof of how mainstream country is changing, becoming more accessible to more artists – and also how people like Cohen can impact both individual careers and the format in his outfit. But perhaps more importantly, it shows that he was never only on celebrity for country fans. They are there for the songs.

“I think the primary goal of Amazon Music is just to continue to provide cutting edge programming to our customers and to try to champion new artists, as well as established artists,” Cohen said. “I don’t want to let go, I want to do more and find ways to work with artists in a meaningful way – to bring them closer to their fans and our customers. For me, this is the most important thing.



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